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Wood pigeon with blaeberries

Serves 4

Like other game birds, a wood pigeon can easily be overcooked, which is as disastrous as a "well-done" fillet steak. I strongly recommend that whatever you decide to serve with your pigeon, you get it ready almost to the point of serving before you pop the birds into the oven. You don't have to rush around getting accompaniments together at the last minute, as the bird will continue to cook as it rests.

4 wood pigeons
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 sprigs of thyme
100g butter, softened
2tsp flour
60ml port
150ml chicken stock
1 small cup of blaeberries

Preheat the oven to 220C/gas 7. Season the wood pigeons inside and out and put a sprig of thyme inside each cavity with a generous knob of butter. Rub the rest of the butter over the breasts, then roast the birds for 7-8 minutes. Transfer to a platter and set aside.

Add the flour to the roasting pan. Stir in the port, then gradually stir in the stock to avoid lumps forming. Bring to the boil, stirring, and simmer over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until the sauce has reduced and thickened.

Meanwhile, cut the birds in half and cut away the backbone, leaving just the breasts on the bone with the legs attached (you can take the breasts off the bone if you wish). Place the pigeon halves in the sauce with the blaeberries, cover with a lid and simmer for 3-4 minutes, turning the birds after a minute and keeping them a little pink.

Serve with buttered greens or braised cabbage if you prefer.